Small Things, Big Things (#415)

Grandma came home today after spending the past seven months in the hospital after knee-replacement surgery and an often painful and difficult rehabilitation. She went from the rehab hospital to another hospital and then back to rehab, where we visited her last Saturday and Charlie clapped as she walked from her wheelchair to a chair. (I sang “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer for encouragement—all these years of teaching Charlie have taught me, you never can do enough to be motivating.)
Jim picked up his mother with her wheelchair, walker, a few clothes. Grandma was seated in the wheelchair in the living room when Charlie got off the bus from his last day of ESY. Charlie opened the door, saw her—so much thinner and weary already at 1.15pm—and walked back out. When he came back in, he started to cry and hurried back downstairs to his room.

I felt bad; I don’t know if Charlie did. Then I remembered that Charlie has the same reaction on seeing my parents—Gong Gong and Po Po (Cantonese for “maternal grandfather” and “maternal grandmother”), although they are among Charlie’s Favorite People In the Whole Wide World. My parents fly in frequently from my native state of California, often when Charlie has time off from school for holidays—often, that is, at transitional moments (after ESY and before the September start of school, winter break, spring break). And, in the past two years, Charlie stares at them when he first sees them and cries. Within a few hours or so he is giggling and burrowing into my dad’s suitcase for “Gong Gong b’ue s’irt!” and dragging my mom around by the hand. When Charlie has strong feelings for people—his four grandparents, his teachers and therapists—those feelings come out uncooked, raw, real.

And it had aleady been A Big Day for Charlie, his last day of riding his beloved “yallow school bus” to school. His class went on a picnic with brown-bag lunches and games. Ever since spending most of the month of last November home when we took Charlie out of his public school classroom because he was not doing well, Charlie has been fixated on getting to school, every day.

Two Big Things in one day for my lovely boy. And two small, but very big-in-a-ways things, for me.

I start teaching soon as we return from two weeks at the beach; I spent the morning writing syllabi for my Fall Semester classes. Last year, I had inserted this phrase into each syllabus:

Please note: The professor will have her cell phone turned on during classtime. My son has autism and, in the past, I have been called about an issue that needs my immediate attention. The professor apologizes in advance for the disruption such calls can cause, appreciates your understanding, and hopes such disruption will be minimal.

This time around, I simply typed that no cell phones are allowed in class. Period.
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Yes, my son still “has autism.” Yes, he still has “issues.” Yes, his teacher in his new school knows what to do—-in fact, Charlie has not gone for such a long stretch without head-banging, biting, pinching, agressing, etc., in two years—Charlie has been having one fine, busy, happy summer.

Last little thing? The enrollment for my Elementary Latin class is filled, I discovered today. Getting college students to take Latin is a struggle with difficulties unto itself, and very different from raising an autistic child but—-Latin being the “dead language” that it is—-there are many reasons for students not to take it.

Reasons big and small—causae magnae parvaeque—and equally to be noted, and cheered on.

6 Responses to “Small Things, Big Things (#415)”
  1. KC'sMommy says:

    Look at that beautiful smile! Gosh he looks so happy Kristina. I am happy to hear that his Grandma is home:)

  2. Mamaroo says:

    Very happy to hear that Jim’s mom is finally home. She must be so glad to be home after all this time!

    Hope you enjoy your vacation at the shore!!!

  3. tara says:

    I hope Charlies very good summer culminates with an awesome vacation at the shore!

  4. gretchen says:

    Welcome home Grandma!

    I think Charlie’s reaction makes perfect sense: Grandma is back where she used to belong, but now she belongs somewhere else, and mom and dad and I belong here now… Huh??!! It’s a lot to make sense of.

    Lots of good news in this post!

  5. Thanks and thanks——I think Charlie was feeling a bit “dysregulated” yesterday. Still today, too, plus I think he is of the opinion that since school is out, the beach vacation SHOULD start.

    Thanks for the well wishes for Grandma! She is transitioning to life at home again, too—–a lot for her to take in, I am sure.

  6. liz ditz says:

    Look at that beautiful, happy smile. I am glad to hear that Jim’s mom is home — such a long haul.

    I suppose we all have patterns. I’m an anxious grouch the day before, or the morning of, a big travel adventure. Anxiety and the disruption of routine. My oldest stepson gets grouchy in some certain defined situation. When I was away for more than 24 hours when my daughter was young (before about the age of 7) when I returned she would be very reserved and anti-cuddly for some period of time, while being very demonstrative toward her babysitter. The first time I was stricken to the heart, then next time I realized this was how she needed to process the whole situation. I let her have her space.

    Once we notice these patterns, we can plan for them and surf them.

    My daughter just returned from a foriegn land. She is an experienced traveller, and enjoys learning new customs (even ones that make her a bit uncomfortable).

    So Charlie responds to the sight of a Beloved Long Unseen with withdrawal and weeping. He doesn’t have the words to say (as I imagine him feeling) “I didn’t know how much I missed you until I saw you again. I am overwhelmed.”

    So now you can warn incoming visitors of this incoming pattern of Charlie’s.

    It’s just one of the customs of Autismland.

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